Tag Archives: Psychology

Stuff in the news 6/11/2013 – Wildfires

Fire Danger Level Meme


  • “…officials and residents continue to try to rely primarily on firefighting improvements and greater firefighting expenditures, instead of limiting development at the wild-urban interface, enforcing rules for property owners, preventing rebuilding in fire zones, and changing “fuel management” practices to shrink the supply of tinder, these fire-policy critics charge. Wildfire policy: Time for US to rely less on shovels, hoses, retardant? (+video) – CSMonitor.com
  • Understory fires have destroyed 3% of the Amazon forests over the past 12 years, according to NASA. That is significantly more than other causes, such as farming, mining, and illegal logging, among other causes previously thought to be the cause of the deforestation. That is not to say any of these identified threats are good, of course, but the dryness in general is a grave threat. NASA Confirmed Urgent Need to Save the Amazon Rainforest
  • $67 million has been given to the following states for drought, fire, and storm relief, through the USDA Emergency Watershed Program: Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico and Ohio. Colorado got $19 million of the relief money, with the remainder being shared by the other states.
  • I can’t even fathom this number but NorCal is up to about 8,000 lightning strikes over the past two days and p. 60 related small fires.
  • On a soft news note, there is a piece on wildland fire leadership and introversion that is worth a read. This source, as a rule, tends to promote how-to-be-a-leader books, which are bit dogmatic for my tastes but the TED talk by Susan Cain is valuable. The Solitude Side of Leadership

To post or not to post? That is the question

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Some may think it just a tad early to publish an analysis like this one from Purple Car but for those helping those helping others deal with this tragedy, I think it’s a worthwhile read. If you are uncomfortable with thinking about this right now, I fully understand. Perhaps you can bookmark the link and come back to it later. It really is a good topic of discussion for social media and emergency management (SMEM) and the blog is well worth adding to one’s feed.

What is and is not appropriate to post during and directly after a tragedy like the #BostonMarathon explosions or #SandyHook is something that I think we all grapple with. Note that I make a distinction between posting as a bystander and posting as virtual operations support teams (VOST), in which case, one would have specific knowledge of the incident.

My personal [bystander] rules tend to be:

  1. Does the post help people (donation links, missing persons, etc)?
  2. Does it inform without conjecture (need to know – road closures; evacuation info, e.g., rather than simply breaking news)?
  3. Does it comfort (think Mr. Rogers)?

If it does none of the above, I would question its usefulness. What do you think? Do you have different rules? More rules?

Understanding dyslexia

Reduce stress with 3 operational modes #in

A large part of stress is thinking about something that worries you for too long or in a repeated cyclic fashion. It can happen very naturally, as our minds can be free to wander at any given time in the day. Sometimes we let problems cycle in our minds uncontrollably. This starts the process of worry and the feeling of being trapped or stuck. We begin to feel the pressure. And like a feedback loop, the feeling of stress can produce even more stress – we lose sleep over not getting enough sleep. We begin to run late, because of the pressure of not running late. We begin to eat too much, because of worrying about gaining too much weight.

The loop must be broken.

A good way to prevent such insanity is to change the way you think. Try this: budget your thinking time. Rather than letting your mind wander uncontrollably throughout your day, allocate a specific time to be thinking, to be doing, and to be relaxing.

The initial resistance you may have to dividing up your day this way is that you might miss some opportunity to resolve that problem. But the reality is, thinking about the same problem over and over doesn’t necessarily help solve the problem. There have been studies and experiences that show sometimes the solution appears when you’re least trying to solve it – maybe when you take some time away from the code, or when you’re just taking a shower. For the creative spark to fly, the mind must be relaxed. When you’re trying to force it, you can’t be creative. It’s like when your friend says to you, “Ok, be funny – right now. Be funny.” You can’t. Creativity isn’t something that comes out on-demand.

And it’s been shown that reducing stress can increase productivity. Rather than worrying about what to do, you spend more time doing it. This is what you want.

So consider spending a set amount of time, maybe in the morning, to think about problems. You will identify what you need to do, make plans for how you can analyze the situation or perform some test or experiment to validate a possible solution. You can theorize and contemplate the big picture as well as the little details. This is the time you spend just crunching thoughts. You write it all down. And when time’s up, you stop thinking about the wide variety of problems and you switch to the next mode.

In the second mode, you will get busy and start doing things. This isn’t the time to be thinking about long-term plans anymore. If you need to plan more, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow (or your next thinking session). Until then, focus on working. Whether it’s studying or learning or experimenting or finishing that project, or writing that code. You only do one thing – you get in the zone – you work. And while you work, you have to train yourself NOT to get distracted with deep, long-term thoughts and concerns. You’re doing your work now. That stuff is not related to completing the task at hand. You are hunting the lion and not planning how to hunt. And during this time, if you accidentally come upon a spark of ingenuity to solve a long-term problem, quickly write it down and forget about it. Go back to it next time you’re in thinking mode. Focus on doing during this allocated amount of time. And nothing else.

You will experience great productivity. In the beginning, it will be hard to focus on work. Old habits die hard. You will find yourself thinking and worrying at various times – especially during a lull in productivity, or when you get tired and take a short work break. Don’t scold yourself. Don’t get angry. That just causes more stress. Just notice that you caught it, let it go, and get back to work. Train yourself, and eventually you’ll become a master of your own thoughts. Soak yourself in your work. Become fully absorbed in it.

Finally, you need the third operational mode: relaxation. You can choose active or passive relaxation. Active will be easier for people beginning to adopt this technique – because it will be more distracting and you won’t have trouble avoiding worrysome thoughts. You can go play tennis. You can go talk to friends. You can try to learn a new song on the piano or the guitar. Watch a movie. Become absorbed in something fun with no pressure. Again, if you catch yourself thinking, just let it go. Go back to enjoying yourself.

Passive relaxation is a bit harder for beginners. Examples include knitting, solo running/jogging/walking, meditation, and other “quiet” activities. Eventually, though, you will gain the ability to stop yourself from thinking about long-term things even during this quiet time. If it’s too hard, don’t pressure yourself to do it. That isn’t relaxation at all. If you can do this, along with switch to the other two modes well, you will find yourself far more relaxed and a lot less stressed out. You will also find yourself more productive, not less productive. You will solve more problems, not fewer problems. And on top of all of those benefits, you’ll be enjoying your life more because relaxation is wonderful.

Hope you enjoyed this tip!

About Tim

has written 21 post in this blog.

‘Negative Parenting’ Starts Aggressive Personalities Early

Credit: stock.xchng

CREDIT: stock.xchng

Parents who express negative emotions toward their infants, or handle them roughly, may be inadvertently harming their babies’ psyches, new research suggests. This type of “negative parenting” results in aggressive, defiant kindergarteners and even affects adult behavior, the researchers said.

“Before the study, we thought it was likely the combination of difficult infant temperament and negative parenting that put parent-child pairs most at risk for conflict in the toddler period,” study researcher Michael Lorber, of New York University, said in a statement. “However, our findings suggest that it was negative parenting in early infancy that mattered most.”

Article continues here: livescience.com

Clean Hands, Clean Minds: The Psychological Impact of Physical Cleanliness


This past Saturday, October 15th, marked a momentous occasion in the history of cleanliness: the fourth annual Global Handwashing Day. Yes, it exists. Established by the Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap in 2008, it has since been celebrated by schools, families, and villages across the world, from China, to Peru, to Burkina Faso. And it’s not just a gimmick: proper handwashing has the potential to save more lives than any vaccine or medical intervention and is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of preventing disease. But what’s more, it’s also an incredibly powerful psychological tool.

We tend to consider moral transgressions in terms of physical cleanliness

Consider this recent review from Current Directions in Psychological Science, which explores the consequences that hand washing has on the mind. The series of studies that the authors explore take as their starting point the historically close association between physical disgust and moral disgust: when we perceive a moral transgression, we tend to react in a similar way as we would to something that is physically off-putting, such as spoiled food or physical contaminants in the environment. We recoil in the same fashion; our face scrunches up in the same repulsed expression; even our brain lights up in overlapping neural networks, evoking similar subjective feelings in both instances.

And when we think about morality, we tend to think about it in terms of physical cleanliness. In one demonstration of this effect, researchers asked people to think abut a past behavior that was either moral or immoral. Those who thought about immoral acts were later far more likely to fill in word fragments such as W _ _ H and S _ _ P with words related to cleanliness, such as wash and soap, whereas no such effect was observed in any other group. On the flip side, people who were exposed to either a messy room, a stinky smell (including a “fart spray” in one study), or a video that showed a dirty toilet were more likely to judge others’ moral transgressions as more severe and more deserving of punishment than people who made the same judgments while sitting in a clean room.

This article continues here: bigthink.com

First Cyborg Cerebellum | IdeaFeed | Big Think


What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have successfully engineered a robotic cerebellum that functions in the brain of rats. First the scientists sought to understand what kind of signal a rat cerebellum sends when it receives stimuli, then they duplicated that response in the mechanical cerebellum they engineered. “Attaching the synthetic cerebellum to the rat, the scientists tried to condition it to blink at the sound of a tone. To get the rat to blink they first fired a puff of air at the rat when the tone sounded and then just sounded the tone.” When the motorized cerebellum was attached, the rat blinked. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The artificial cerebellum represents a higher order of brain-computer interface than what is currently experienced by users of advanced prosthetics that receive and execute orders from the brain. Since the cerebellum is but a part of the brain, the scientists had to engineer the “cerebellum to receive information from one part of the brain and send it back to another.” Scientists need to understand more about how the cerebellum functions before a test is performed on humans but this recent experiment is good news for those with brain injuries. 

Read it at Discovery News

Related Content

Debunking Common Brain Myths

Debunking Common Brain Myths

Sam Wang

Neuroscientist, Princeton University

The Neuroscience of Decision Making

IN AN ATTEMPT TO PUT MATTER OVER MIND, researchers are beginning to decipher what exactly is happening in our brains when we are making decisions.

Our thoughts, though abstract and vaporous in form, are determined by the actions of specific neuronal circuits in our brains. The new field known as “decision neuroscience” is uncovering those circuits, thereby mapping thinking on a cellular level. Although still a young field, research in this area has exploded in the last decade, with findings suggesting it is possible to parse out the complexity of thinking into its individual components and decipher how they are integrated when we ponder. Eventually, such findings will lead to a better understanding of a wide range of mental disorders, from depression to schizophrenia, as well as explain how exactly we make the multitude of decisions that ultimately shape our destiny.

Recently, three experts in decision neuroscience discussed their work, describing the genesis of this cutting-edge field and why it incorporates several disciplines. They also identified the driving questions in the field and reflected on the potential practical applications of this research. The investigators who participated are:

  • DAEYEOL LEE, PhD, Department of Neurobiology and Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine
  • C. DANIEL SALZMAN, MD, PhD., Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Kavli Institute for Brain Science, Columbia University School of Medicine
  • XIAO-JING WANG, PhD., Department of Neurobiology, Physics and Psychology; Director,  Swartz Program in Theoretical Neurobiology; Kavli Institute of Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine
Read the interview here: kavlifoundation.org

Does Emotional Intelligence Cross Species? | Equine Therapy

Did you ever wonder why autistic children benefit from equine therapy?

…many gifted horseman turned to horses because their human interactions were challenged. Both Buck Branaman and Monty Roberts, two masters in the field of horsemanship and horse training, describe early physical abuse and trouble relating to people as a result. Indeed, both of these men intimated having to work very hard at developing rapport with people.

Read the whole article here: blogs.psychcentral.com

Addiction Is Not A Disease Of The Brain

circa 1870:  Anatomical drawing of a man's brain and cerebral nerves.

Enlarge Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Addiction has been moralized, medicalized, politicized, and criminalized. And, of course, many of us are addicts, have been addicts or have been close to addicts. Addiction runs very hot as a theme.

Part of what makes addiction so compelling is that it forms a kind of conceptual/political crossroads for thinking about human nature. After all, to make sense of addiction we need to make sense of what it is to be an agent who acts, with values, in the face of consequences, under pressure, with compulsion, out of need and desire. One needs a whole philosophy to understand addiction.

Today I want to respond to readers who were outraged by my willingness even to question whether addiction is a disease of the brain.

Let us first ask: what makes something — a substance or an activity — addictive? Is there a property shared by all the things to which we can get addicted?

Continue reading at npr.org